Brazil's Rousseff on fence-mending US visit

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Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff attends a meeting with Brazilian businessmen and US investors at the St. Regis Hotel in New York on June 28, 2015

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff attends a meeting with Brazilian businessmen and US investors at the St. Regis Hotel in New York on June 28, 2015 (AFP Photo/Kena Betancur)

New York (AFP) - Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff met Sunday with investors in New York on the first day of a long-delayed US visit aimed at overcoming strains caused by the NSA spying scandal.

Revelations two years ago that the US National Security Agency electronically eavesdropped on Rousseff's email and other communications prompted her to angrily call off an official visit to Washington that had been set for October 2013.

The White House has expressed hope that her meeting with President Barack Obama this week will turn the page on an acrimonious chapter in US relations with the South American giant.

The fence-mending trip comes as the Brazilian president -- her country's first woman leader -- faces mounting difficulties at home stemming from a faltering economy and a huge corruption scandal at state oil company Petrobras.

Rousseff, who arrived Saturday night, kicked off her US visit by meeting Sunday in New York with a group of about 20 Brazilian business leaders.

On Monday, she is due to speak with US and Brazilian businesspeople before addressing a seminar organized by her government on plans for a major infrastructure program with hundreds of contracts in the offing.

She then has a working dinner with Obama at the White House, followed by their main talks on Tuesday, before she heads to the US West Coast.

Rousseff has proposed $62 billion in spending on infrastructure to stimulate her country's lagging economy, even as she cuts back spending overall by $23 billion to get its books in order.

After experiencing near-zero growth last year, Brazil's once sizzling economy is expect to contract 1.1 percent this year.

Unemployment rose to 6.7 percent in May, and inflation is expected to hit nine percent this year.

Though re-elected to a second term in October 2014, Rousseff's approval rating has plunged to a record low of just 10 percent, making the US trip an opportunity to recast her image at home.

"The domestic importance of this trip is much greater than its external importance," said Carlos Melo, a political scientist at the Insper business school in Sao Paulo.

"Certainly at this moment, it is much more important for Brazil than the United States."